Four of the five games in the Big Ten this week were blowouts. However, the one close game was an absolute doozy in a nine-overtime thriller between Illinois and Penn State. Bret Bielema and the Fighting Illini came out on top in what has to be one of the sloppiest games I’ve ever seen. Where does Penn State go from here and how does that affect our power rankings? Let’s dive in.
1. Ohio State Buckeyes, 6-1 (4-0)
Previous Ranking: 1
The Buckeyes continued to steamroll the opposition on Saturday, easily dispatching Indiana, 54-7. With Penn State now having two conference losses, this is shaping up to be a wild three-team race in the Big Ten East between Ohio State, Michigan and Michigan State.
2. Michigan Wolverines, 7-0 (4-0)
Previous Ranking: 3
The Wolverines were slow out the gate on Saturday before eventually pulling away from Northwestern. Now 7-0, the in-state showdown is on the docket between two undefeated top 10 teams in East Lansing on Saturday. This will be a monumental game in the state of Michigan that will dramatically affect the conference and national title pictures.
3. Michigan State Spartans, 7-0 (4-0)
Previous Ranking: 4
Michigan State was on bye this week. This gives them an extra week to prepare for the upcoming showdown with Michigan. Time to buckle up!
4. Iowa Hawkeyes, 6-1 (3-1)
Previous Ranking: 5
Iowa was also on bye this week. However, the Hawkeyes moved up one spot in our rankings thanks to Penn State’s dramatic loss to Illinois. I gave Iowa the nod over Penn State solely due to the head-to-head win a few weeks ago.
5. Penn State Nittany Lions, 5-2 (2-2)
Previous Ranking: 2
Well, this is certainly not how I saw Penn State’s season falling apart. The Nittany Lions were run over by the Illinois ground game. The Illini put up 357 yards on the ground against what was supposed to be a stout Penn State defense. Sean Clifford still didn’t look anywhere close to 100 percent, but toughed it out. Unfortunately, he wasn’t able to get it done. Now with two conference losses, they will need utter chaos in order to climb back into the conference race. Is it too soon to talk about any James Franklin to USC rumors?
6. Minnesota Golden Gophers, 5-2 (3-1)
Previous Ranking: 11
I’ll be the first to admit I may have prematurely judged the Golden Gophers. Following their loss to Bowling Green, I immediately dismissed PJ Fleck and company. Since then, they’ve won three straight against Purdue, Nebraska and Maryland, all teams I expected to beat Minnesota. The schedule only gets easier from here as well as Minnesota plays Northwestern and Illinois next.
7. Wisconsin Badgers, 4-3 (2-2)
Previous Ranking: 8
Wisconsin finally looked how we expected them to look during the preseason. They easily handled a Purdue team that had been riding high following the upset over Iowa. This marks three straight wins for the Badgers, albeit the Army win was unconvincing. Despite the luster being gone, this upcoming Saturday’s tilt between Wisconsin and Iowa will go a long way in determining Big Ten West supremacy.
8. Nebraska Cornhuskers, 3-5 (1-4)
Previous Ranking: 7
Nebraska was on bye this week. Wisconsin’s win over 25th-ranked Purdue elevated them ahead of the Cornhuskers.
9. Maryland Terrapins, 4-3 (1-3)
Previous Ranking: 6
I wanted to believe in this Maryland team early in the season. However, all of the appeal has fallen away at this point. In a third consecutive blowout loss, the Terrapins were unable to stop a mediocre Minnesota offense. Maryland hosts a desperate Indiana team prior to its schedule getting immensely more difficult.
10. Purdue Boilermakers, 4-3 (2-2)
Previous Ranking: 9
Purdue looked to follow up its stunner over Iowa and prove its worth as a nationally ranked team. Instead, the Boilermakers suffered a sound defeat to Wisconsin at home. This is not a bad team, but if this weekend taught us anything it’s they are not a true contender in the Big Ten.
11. Rutgers Scarlet Knights, 3-4 (0-4)
Previous Ranking: 10
Rutgers was on bye this week as well. I may still be overrating them as the Scarlet Knights have yet to win a conference game. However, I still have faith in them to win some games down the stretch.
12. Illinois Fighting Illini, 3-5 (2-3)
Previous Ranking: 14
I’ve had Illinois at the bottom of the rankings for virtually the entire season. While I still don’t think this is a talented team at all, the Fighting Illini were able to pull off the second biggest surprise of the season by beating Penn State in nine overtimes. At this point, it’s safe to say their running game is for real. However, the passing game...not so much. If they can beat Rutgers this weekend, it may just give them the staying power they need to avoid the Big Ten cellar for the rest of the year.
13. Indiana Hoosiers, 2-5 (0-4)
Previous Ranking: 12
Poor Indiana. The Hoosiers have now lost five games, all of which being to teams ranked 18th or higher at the time. What makes matters worse is No. 6 Michigan is still on the schedule as well. The only path to bowl eligibility is to win four of the last five. This looks conceivably possible, although very doubtful. What a disappointing season.
14. Northwestern Wildcats, 3-4 (1-3)
Previous Ranking: 13
Northwestern was already lacking in the talent department prior to the start of the season. Since then, the Wildcats have been decimated by injuries, making matters much worse. Pat Fitzgerald and company put up a fight on Saturday in Ann Arbor, but eventually succumbed to the superior team. Minnesota is up next.